September 19, 2001, 12:00 AM — I bought something online last week and, within minutes, received the
requisite email from the storefront thanking me for my order. Alas,
this story doesn't have a happy ending. I want to show you why so that,
hopefully, you'll learn from the experience too.
The storefront is TigerDirect.com, a computer and electronics supplier
that friends of mine have used in the past. When the email arrived
moments after placing the order on their Web site, I initially thought
that these guys were on the ball. Here is the text of their message:
"Thank you for ordering from TigerDirect.com. Your order
confirmation number is 0000XXX0000.
If you have any questions about your order, email us at
CustomerService@TigerDirect.com or call us at 1-800-364-9483.
To track your order, log onto our Order Tracking System at
www.TigerDirect.com/ct/track.asp for complete shipping details."
What did TigerDirect do right?
* They place the order confirmation number directly in the email
* They provide a link to their Web site tracking system.
* They include their phone number and email address in case you
want to contact them for more information.
That's terrific, and all storefronts should include at least these
three pieces of information. However, they didn't include one other
piece of critically important data: Whether or not the items that I
ordered were actually in stock. When I went to the order status page, I
quickly saw the dreaded "backordered" indicator. When I clicked on that
for more information, I got the following screen:
"These items are currently on backorder, and will ship as soon as
we receive stock on them."
That doesn't tell me anything. Is it going to be weeks? Months?
Whenever Sid in Shipping gets around to opening up the stock? So I
called them on the phone and they told me my stuff would come in next
week. Why couldn't their Web system track this information?
Using email to communicate with your customers is essential, but all
emails need key elements such as whether an order has been shipped and
when backordered products are expected. Without including them, you run
the risk of sending your customers elsewhere. Sure, extracting all this
data and generating this information for every email is more work, but
saving your telephone and other support people a lot of time and effort
is worth it.